Arrest of two southern theft gangs is blow to jewelry thieves

The August arrests of two active groups of jewelry thieves in the South are a serious blow to the theft and robbery gangs which prey on traveling jewelry sales people, says the Jewelers Security Alliance.

“These are important arrests,” says John J. Kennedy, JSA president. “When other thieves see two important cells like these being arrested, it tends to scare them off [because] it shows that the authorities are actively going after these people.”

The arrests occurred in Alabama and in Georgia.

On Aug. 7, in Cullman, Ala., a retail jeweler who had a traveling salesman in his store, noticed a suspicious car had been parked across the street for 45 minutes, its driver watching the store. He called local police, who said they would follow car unobserved and the salesman when he left. As the salesman drove away, he was followed by the suspicious car, which was joined by a second one. The two suspect cars swerved through traffic, went through red lights, and even cut through a parking lot to stay close to the salesman.

The police stopped the two cars, arrested four Hispanic men and found razor knives, latex gloves, walkie-talkies and extra license plates in the cars. Police later told a local newspaper they had “stepped right in the middle of a planned robbery attempt.”

As the four were making bail, the FBI and the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services—which had been contacted by the police—arrived and they were taken into custody by the INS.

On Aug. 26, in Roswell, Ga., four suspects, later identified as Hispanic men, tried to rob a traveling jewelry salesman they had followed as he took $400,000 of jewelry from his car in a motel parking lot. Police spotted the attempted robbery and chased the four in their car for about a mile. They arrested them as they attempted to run away after the car stopped.

The Southeast “remains disproportionately under attack” from jewelry theft gangs, says Kennedy, but arrests of these two gangs demonstrated the effectiveness of recent, tighter enforcement (including a new FBI task force based in the South, at the urging of JSA) and the closer cooperation between federal and local law enforcement authorities.